Elizabeth Báthory- The Blood Countess

Who is Elizabeth Báthory?

Elizabeth Bathory was a beautiful European countess who enjoyed torturing and killing young women. It is estimated that she killed around 650 young women. Báthory shows the ugly side of what a sadistic wealthy, and powerful woman can do. She is one of the first serial killers in recorded history. Her crimes have become infamous in folklore, with many attributing her actions to being a vampire or witch. 

countess elizabeth bathory
Countess Elizabeth Báthory

Elizabeth Báthory has been the subject of numerous stories and legends over the centuries, including one that said she bathed in the blood of virgins to remain young and beautiful. She is popularly known as The Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.

Today we will talk about the bloodthirsty, cruel, and sadistic Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory.

Early Life

Elizabeth or Erzebet Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman born on August 7, 1560, in Nyírbátor, Hungary. She was the daughter of Baron George VI and Baroness Anna Báthory. Their family was one of the most influential and wealthy families controlling Transylvania, which is now part of Romania.

Her uncle was none other than Stephen Báthory, who later became the King of Poland. 

There are a lot of aspects of her life that scholars and historians still debate, why she was called the “Blood Countess.”

 A 2018 research paper that she was suffering from epileptic seizures, violent mood swings, and painful migraines. The fact that her parents are first cousins may explain her weak health. Elizabeth’s family took blood from the servants and would put it on her for treatment. Few suggest that it could be why she was obsessed over the blood.

Elizabeth witnessed servants cruelly beaten for even the slightest mistake when she was a child. It was, unfortunately, a common practice. She saw so many horrifying atrocities that, as a young girl, she found it amusing. 

Influences of Elizabeth Báthory

Ferenc Nádasdy

Ferenc Nadasdy
Ferenc Nadasdy

When she was 15, she married Ferenc Nadasy, who was 20. Ferenc was a Hungarian nobleman and soldier. He was a member of the Order of the Dragon, an elite group of noblemen who swore to defend Christianity against the Ottoman Empire. 

Ferenc also had a reputation for relentless cruelty, which sent a shiver to the enemies. After marriage, Elizabeth moved in with her husband at his parent’s palace. As a wedding gift, he gave her a castle called Castle Cachtice, which is in the Little Carpathians in modern-day Slovakia. Eventually, it will become the most bleakly gothic castle in Hungary. Moreover, historians claim that he trained Bathory in torture. He even restrained a girl, lathered in honey and ravaged by insects. Moreover, Ferenc gifted her gloves spiked by claws to thrash servants for their mistakes.

As the Hungarian empire was at war with Ottoman Empire, he was often away at battlefields, leaving his wife to manage their estates and supervision their serfs. Historians accuse Elizabeth of adultery with several men, including her brother, while he was away.

Also, historians have a contradictory view about if she was a lesbian. Her aunt Clara, the wife of Stephen Báthory, a bisexual, introduced her to orgies and a shadowy circle of people considered sorcerers, witches, and alchemists. 

In 1604, Ferenc passed away because of a wound inflicted by a harlot when he refused to pay for her services. It later resulted in infections, and he succumbed to it two years later.

Anna Darvolya

The next notable name is Anna Darvolya. 

Anna was a Croatian woman who worked as a servant from 1601 at Bathory’s castle. She was allegedly a witch under whose influence Elizabeth became more sadistic. Darvolya truly transformed her into a serial killer. The Cachtice Castle, where she moved after her husband’s death, became the playground.

In 1609, Anna died of a stroke. 

Erszi Majorova

The subsequent significant influence was Erszi Majorova. After Anna’s death, Bathory found another accomplice in Erszi. She was the widow of one of her tenant farmers who practiced black magic. Her influence eventually ended the terror reign of Elizabeth, and here is why.

In the past, the victims were young servant girls lured to her castle with promises of employment or education. They were, of course, dispensible back then. Moreover, she was from an influential family, making her untouchable. Families in the area feared her sadistic tendencies, so they hid their daughters from her. 

Because of it, she might have begun pursuing the young women of noble birth but lacked great wealth. Now, some historians say that Erszi convinced Elizabeth Bathory that killing noble girls would bring her prosperity. 

As a result, Bathory started luring noble girls to her castles by promising them good manners and language training.

Her previous success at killing without repercussions might have made her more reluctant. 

She would carry on with her regular sadistic activities with these girls. Soon, the daughter’s sudden disappearance, death, and Elizabeth’s terrible explanation made the families wary. These families had connections to the King of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus II. So they pleaded to investigate the deaths and disappearances. 

Investigation of Elizabeth Báthory

After multiple complaints and pressure from the Noble family, King Matthias II decided to investigate the matter.

King Matthias II who ordered investigation on Elizabeth Bathory
King Matthias II

Some historians said that the King had additional motives, too. He owed the Bathory family a lot of money, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. If she were to be proven guilty, all the family riches would automatically go to the reigning monarchy.

He ordered Count Gurgyo Thurzo to investigate the deaths and disappearance of these noblewomen. 

However, Thurzo was Elizabeth Bathory’s cousin and closest associate of the dead husband.

Count Gurgyo Thurzo found her guilty and arrested her. During the trial, thirteen servants testified about her crimes and found Bathory guilty of the murder of more than 80 young women. 

According to the testimonies, Báthory amused herself by torturing girls with pincers, needles, razors, knives, wax, red-hot irons, and pokers. Some were plunged into icy streams and frozen to death. Some were starved in the dungeons and torture chambers the Countess had installed in her castle or smeared with honey and left to be attacked by bees and ants.

Two court officials claimed to have personally witnessed the countess torture and kill young servant girls. 

She would also bite pieces of flesh off of her victims. 

Due to the family’s influence, only her accomplices were put on trial.

Trial and punishment

The trial of Elizabeth Báthory was a five-day affair, beginning on January 2, 1611, in Byteč. 

They were Janos Ujvary, commonly known as Ficzko. He admitted to knowing thirty-seven girls that had been killed and participating in the torture; his primary responsibility was to dispose of bodies and lure new victims into the castle. 

Illona Jo, a nursemaid of Bathory’s children, was found guilty of luring, torturing, and killing girls. She would also help in hiding and burying the bodies. 

Dorottya Szentes, who had only worked for five years for the Countess, testified of 36 victims. She confessed to luring, torturing, killing, and burying the servant girls.

Katalin Benenczky was sentenced to life imprisonment as she was the most soft-hearted of all who would sneak food into the victims. Katalin was also the torture victim and forced to participate in the torture of other young women.

As far as Elizabeth Bathory was concerned, she was never put on trial publicly. Even though the testimonies confirmed her direct involvement, no death sentence was handed out to her. Instead, Bathory was to be confined to her castle. 

She spent three years walled up in her bed-chamber, receiving food through a small passage and air through thin slits. 

In August 1614, a guard found her dead, lying down on the floor.

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